Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Special Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
The Red Sea Fund aims to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry. (Red Sea Int. Film Festival)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
  • Winning ‘Lithium’ movie tackles bipolar disorder
  • Over $100,000 set aside for 23 individual MENA projects

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s support for the film industry continues with the Red Sea Fund’s announcement of its second-cycle winners, which will mean financial resources to bring their projects to fruition.

The fund, administered by the Red Sea Film Foundation, has allocated about $100,000 for 23 individual projects that will cover production, distribution and screening.

The aim is to provide a more diverse set of movies to global audiences and better serve both Saudi and Arab filmmakers.

“It means a great deal to us that the Red Sea Fund believes in this story enough to fund it. It’s both an honor and a responsibility,” Saudi filmmaker Talha B. told Arab News. He will be co-directing the winning project “Lithium” along with fellow creative Amro B.

The feature film tackles the subject of bipolar disorder and the silent suffering of individuals with mental health issues in the Arab region.

“It is a great responsibility to present this subject in a positive yet honest way, and we intend to do it the justice it deserves … It tackles a subject that we rarely admit we have in our society. We hope that more bold stories like this are told candidly because, like physical health, mental health too matters,” Talha said.

The film is currently in development and is set to premiere at the 2023/2024 Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

The rest of the 23 selections include shorts, documentaries, animated films and documentaries, with five submitted from Africa, 11 from the Arab region, and seven by Saudi directors.

The aim is to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry.

“It’s very fresh and exciting witnessing the great things Red Sea films are achieving and presenting to the filmmakers in Saudi Arabia and the world. The funded films speak a lot about the amount of understanding for both the creative process and the craftsmanship behind the walls of their visionary team and their out-of-the-box thinking,” Anas BaTahaf, the filmmaker and upcoming producer of the selected film “Hayat Yousef,” told Arab News.

BaTahaf is teaming up with long-time collaborator Sarah Taibah who will be joining as a screenwriter on the upcoming project that features meaningful character arcs, quirkiness, blended-genres, and “high voltage” absurdity, all packed within a contemporary dark romcom.

“Taibah’s knowledge and thorough understanding of romance — from her various art projects on studying love as a feeling and theme during a wide range of art residencies around the world — is another quality that grants her my full trust when it comes to telling this story,” BaTahaf said.

The aim to tell unconventional stories is the reason for the selection of “Red Eye,” set to be directed by filmmaker Mohammad Jastaniah.

“After so many trials, errors, and rejections it’s nice to see once again that persistence pays off, let alone being supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation — a place I call home. It feels special,” Jastaniah told Arab News.

The film is an “allegory” for the artist’s experience in Saudi, he said. “Red Eye” follows the story of a man navigating the stigma of being a rock star, fighting his own demons, and dealing with his relationship with his father.

“It speaks for those who stand out in the crowd, and there are so many of us out there, especially in these exciting times of change happening in the Kingdom. Pinch me because it feels like a dream,” Jastaniah said.

“I am very excited for our film and all the other films that won (backing) … Local filmmakers deserve all the praise and support,” said BaTahaf.

He said he was looking forward to his friends seeing the “great” films that were made.


US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi
Updated 22 min 10 sec ago

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: A thriller set during an environmental collapse has joined a growing list of US television shows shot in Abu Dhabi with the support of its film commission.

“Last Light,” a five-episode series streaming on Shahid VP in the Middle East, was filmed in multiple locations in the emirate, with the capital doubling as the program’s fictitious city of Luzrah. 

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured ‘Last Light,’ as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert. (Supplied)

The show stars Emmy-nominated Matthew Fox, best known for his role in “Lost,” and Joanne Froggatt of “Downton Abbey,” as well as Amber Rose and Hakeem Jomah. The program also features Paris and London as locations.

The action and drama series is directed by award-winning director Dennie Gordon, who has worked on over 100 hours of network television, including the critically acclaimed American superhero television series ‘Legion’.

“Finding a desert like this, unobstructed dunes as far as the eye can see, is such a privilege,” said Gordon in a statement. 

‘Last Light’ star Matthew Fox shooting a scene in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured, as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert.

Scenes were also filmed at the Arkan Cement Factory, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Al Danah, Mussafah and a military base.

The series, an adaptation of Alex Scarrow’s best-selling novel about a world without oil, is the latest to join the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s extensive roster of supported foreign productions.

The series received location support and a 30 percent rebate on production costs from the ADFC. It was produced by a crew of 145 people, 90 of whom were locals.


 


Saudi podcaster amplifies voices of local, regional creatives

Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi podcaster amplifies voices of local, regional creatives

Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
  • Hatem Alakeel partners with Harrods to build a community of likeminded individuals, bridge generational gap

DHAHRAN: Hatem Alakeel is the most immaculately dressed Saudi podcaster with a heart of gold.

His podcast, Gems of Arabia, which aims to highlight “all the shimmering hidden gems of the Arab world,” recently launched its third season with a big change — he is partnering with world-famous UK-based luxury department store Harrods.

This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.

I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture.

Hatem Alakeel

“Harrods and Gems of Arabia are partnering on a podcast series, themed on bridging the generations through culture,” Alakeel told Arab News. “As two established institutions in their own regions, our podcast and Harrods hopes to facilitate conversations between guests who are excelling in their field, and to provide a bridge between both generations in both the UK and the Middle East.

“We are hosting these special editions of Gems of Arabia from inside Harrods, Knightsbridge,” he said.

A softly spoken and articulate host, Alakeel has found some of the most interesting UK-based Saudis and other Arabs to interview. The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.

Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)

With 18 years of experience, Alakeel first started as a fashion designer with his label “Toby,” modernizing the traditional thobe, and has been elegantly sashaying into each endeavor he has embarked on ever since with his brand consultancy Authenticite.

Although Alakeel is proud of his Saudi heritage and his Jeddah roots, he is mostly based in Dubai. But no matter where he is geographically, he is always passionate about amplifying narratives in the region regardless of where they are from.

For the past four years, he has been writing an online column where he highlights change-makers in the region who are shaping the Saudi landscape in a positive way. He knew it was time to try a different platform to further amplify the voices of those individuals to build on the conversations, so he started the podcast.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.

• Hatem Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.

• This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.

• For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.

That is something Harrods was attracted to.

“For me, Harrods has been an institution that I’ve always looked up to ever since I was a kid. It really has this kind of nostalgia feeling for me. I believe that the way we have been able to connect was through my podcast during my second season, which I did on the Saudi Cup — it was about heritage,” he said.

As Alakeel become recognized online and offline, he felt a sense of responsibility to help foster a thriving ecosystem for creatives in or from the region. He wanted to create the type of community that he wished he had when he was starting his career.

An un-ironic instagram influencer, he makes sure that his posts are both in English and Arabic. He also genuinely tries to bring out the silver lining in every situation.

The person who has been his anchor is his late mother, Seham Arab, who recently passed away.

Although Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.

His beloved mother’s scent lingers in Alakeel’s life — literally. Every night, he spritzes some of her favorite perfume onto his pillow so he can fall asleep to her memory. However, the bond between mother and son goes well beyond smell, which is known to be the strongest sense tied to memory.

She was the inspiration for his life’s work and the reason he began on his journey trying to uncover hidden gems and treasures within the Arab region. Alakeel calls her his first gem. She also introduced him to Harrods.

“My recollection of my first experience with Harrods was when I was in boarding school and my mom sent me a box of riding gear — it was shoes, a hat, and it was the most immaculate riding gear that I got, because I was horseback riding. So from there, it snowballed into me always going there and appreciating them. I was over the moon to have the opportunity to actually do something with them,” he said.

She would have loved his collaboration with Harrods and how he decided to approach the partnership.

“The approach that I proposed to Harrods is generational and cultural — there’s also a generational bridge that’s being built. And we need to recognize that a lot of the younger generation, Generation Z, for example, is very much inspired more than ever with vintage. Millennials were always so brand-obsessed,” he said.

“So, this is kind of the movement that I’m creating with the podcast — what we’re going to be doing with Harrods — is to highlight the generational bridges existing between both cultures. You know, an idea of how progressive Saudi designers are becoming, how much more exposed they are and how much more we need to kind of see where it’s heading. And this is the kind of conversation we want to have,” he said.

For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.

He wants to try to bridge the different generations that seem somewhat disconnected. A podcast felt like a natural progression to merge all of these elements together. It is a conversational vehicle that will allow different members of communities to express themselves.

It is all about creating a community and building it up.

“I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture,” Alakeel said.

Saudis, and indeed Arabs, have shopped at Harrods in London for generations. It is a trusted place to find curated and well-crafted goods. This season’s podcast promises the same.

“Harrods is partnering with game-changers in the local market; trailblazers, designers and entrepreneurs based in the Middle East. The goal is to build a community of likeminded individuals, to provide them with a global platform and wider network of contacts, while allowing Harrods to build relationships with and support the next generation of talent. Harrods’ partnership with Gems of Arabia is a perfect alignment and a brilliant example of this work, ensuring their position in these foreign markets is meaningful and built on cooperation,” Alakeel said.

Tap into season 3 of the Gems of Arabia podcast empowered by @harrods by connecting to @authenticite_by_hatem_alakeel.

 


UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
Updated 25 September 2022

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
  • Wonderful talent showcase, says Noura bint Mohammad Al-Kaabi, minister of culture and youth
  • Hashel Al-Lamki, Mohammed Kazem, Chafa Ghaddar will work under event’s theme ‘Manifesto of Fragility’

DUBAI: Three artists from the UAE are set to represent the country at the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, which will run from Sept. 14 to Dec. 31, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Multi-disciplinary creator Hashel Al-Lamki, conceptual creative Mohammed Kazem and mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the biennale, which is being held under the theme “Manifesto of Fragility.”

Mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the Biennale. (Supplied)

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the UAE to showcase its talent at such a prestigious platform. We have immense respect for the Lyon Biennale, which is marking its 16th edition this year. The UAE is making its presence felt at global art events and this is one of its significant participations,” said UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura bint Mohammed Al-Kaabi in a statement.

“The UAE artists exhibiting at this event are known names in the contemporary art world and they will be presenting distinctive works enriched by Middle Eastern and Arab influences. I look forward to seeing their participation in the biennale, wish them a very successful exhibition and I look forward to seeing the fruitful results of the collaboration between these artists come to life.”

Featuring 230 works by 34 artists and more than 300 archival documents from nearly 40 collections worldwide, the exhibition will showcase new creations by living artists alongside historical pieces from museums in the French city.

It will also present loaned collections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (also known as the Met), the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and from many of Lyon’s leading cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, the Lugdunum Museum and Roman theaters, and the Musées Gadagne.
 


AlUla’s mystical landscape echoes with music on National Day

AlUla’s mystical landscape echoes with music on National Day
Updated 25 September 2022

AlUla’s mystical landscape echoes with music on National Day

AlUla’s mystical landscape echoes with music on National Day
  • Beats of top artists lit up the stage at the Azimuth festival

ALULA: Local and international artists took to the stage at one of the Kingdom’s most distinctive venues in celebration of Saudi Arabia’s 92nd National Day during the second AlUla Azimuth festival on Friday.

Engulfed in the mountainous terrain of the historic AlUla, Saudi nationals and international visitors welcomed a lineup composed of DJ and performances that lit up the stage in vivid light and fire shows.

The night ascended with Saudi DJs Durar and Solskin playing back-to-back, warming up the audience for the night ahead. Next was Canadian RnB
duo artist and frequent Drake collaborator Majid Jordan, who subbed their usual mellow vocals with a distinctive DJ set. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

While the event was to celebrate the establishment of the Kingdom, it was important for both the Royal Commission for AlUla and MDLBEAST to feature international artists to create greater opportunities for cultural exchange and audience attraction.

“It’s a chance for us to communicate with other artists and other talents and bring in what the local audience wants. It’s a matter of understanding what kind of flavors can we bring in every time to change it up.

 

“Being a part of it as the Saudi talent is great for us, for our national pride. We get to play on the same stage together with wonderful artists around the world,” said Ahmed Alammary, chief creative of MDLBEAST, and known for his music as DJ Baloo.  

HIGHLIGHT

Azimuth’s National Day lineup also includes performances by DJs Kayan, Biirdperson, Cosmicat, Disco Misr, Parov Stelar, Jason Derulo, Anmarz, Baloo, and BKR.

The Azimuth concept was first created by the AlUla commission, but this year’s programming happened in collaboration with the leading entertainment company and record label MDLBEAST. The two entities created a production and design experience unlike any other, featuring projections on the valley mountains and laser shows that captivated the audience.

The night ascended with Saudi DJs Durar and Solskin playing back-to-back, warming up the audience for the night ahead. Next was Canadian RnB
duo artist and frequent Drake collaborator Majid Jordan, who subbed their usual mellow vocals with a distinctive DJ set. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“The spaces here and the landscape are so beautiful, you look at it and you want to enhance it with something and music is the perfect complement for beautiful scenery. AlUla presents a really great space for music venues — beyond one, there’s hundreds of them,” Alammary told Arab News.

The night ascended with Saudi DJs Durar and Solskin playing back-to-back, warming up the audience for the night ahead. Next was Canadian RnB duo artist and frequent Drake collaborator Majid Jordan, who subbed their usual mellow vocals with a distinctive DJ set.

Acclaimed American singer Kelis, known for her popular song “Milkshake” was up next, setting the stage up for crowd-favorite DJ Snake, bringing back pop classics such as “Middle and “All I Need Is Your Love Tonight.”

The night ascended with Saudi DJs Durar and Solskin playing back-to-back, warming up the audience for the night ahead. Next was Canadian RnB
duo artist and frequent Drake collaborator Majid Jordan, who subbed their usual mellow vocals with a distinctive DJ set. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

The crisp autumn air filled the desert scene. At this point the crowd was enjoying the eccentric tunes of the French-Algerian DJ.

To follow up, Saudi duo Dish Dash, composed of brothers Hassan and Abbas Ghazzawi, performed at what they describe as a “magical” place.

“It’s a dream come true for us to actually have the power to influence and show the world what Saudi is and how we actually come together and enjoy our time in such locations, in places like these. It’s a blessing for us to be part of the leading people showing this to the world,” Hassan told Arab News.

The duo have traveled the world performing at festivals and cities, most notably Tomorrowland and MDLBEAST, but said that the AlUla experience is distinctive because of its cultural narrative. For them, it is the perfect location to share their music with the world on Saudi National Day.

“To see how much history is in this place (makes) it even more unique and to have this setup happening here, with this magnitude and all of these ideas are like a natural background of our everyday lives,” Abbas said.

Vinyl Mode took to the stage next to bring a patriotic set to the crowd, which erupted in unison singing, as Nomad ended the night.

Azimuth’s National Day lineup also includes performances by DJs Kayan, Biirdperson, Cosmicat, Disco Misr, Parov Stelar, Jason Derulo, Anmarz, Baloo, and BKR.

 


Naila Art Gallery’s 'Saudi Crafts' exhibition reflects a changing nation

Naila Art Gallery’s 'Saudi Crafts' exhibition reflects a changing nation
Updated 24 September 2022

Naila Art Gallery’s 'Saudi Crafts' exhibition reflects a changing nation

Naila Art Gallery’s 'Saudi Crafts' exhibition reflects a changing nation
  • Naila Art Gallery brings 30 studios, artists and artisanal brands to showcase their creative ventures

RIYADH: In honor of the 92nd Saudi National Day, Naila Art Gallery has put together the exhibition “Saudi Crafts,” bringing 30 studios, artists and artisanal brands to showcase their creative ventures from Sept. 20-30.

Among prominent names in the Saudi art scene, such as Abdullah Hammas and Najla Al-Saleem, is May Hamdan, whose artworks merge traditional aspects and techniques with contemporary ones in her first exhibition. She has titled her work “Mader,” which is a combination of the two Arabic words for “past” and “present.”

For her growing series, currently featuring only two artworks, the artist makes use of the Kingdom’s traditional Sadu weaving technique alongside her signature contemporary, crystal-like resin elements.

Saudi Scenes is an artwork and souvenir shop, offering a wide range of creations that are perfect for a special gift from home. From artwork collections to handmade pottery and jewelry, the shop proudly showcases its heritage.

Rashed Al-Debas is another artist incorporating resin along with string art in his work to create powerful portraits, claiming the work is the first of its kind globally. One of his portraits is a heartfelt tribute to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the late King Abdulaziz, reflecting the changes Saudi Arabia is experiencing now in contrast with the emerging nation it was nine decades ago.

“I chose this idea because we all see the crown prince as another version of King Abdulaziz in his qualities, determination, statesmanship and values. His character is a byproduct of his grandfather,” Al-Debas told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHT

Among prominent names in the Saudi art scene, such as Abdullah Hammas and Najla Al-Saleem, is May Hamdan, whose artworks merge traditional aspects and techniques with contemporary ones in her first exhibition. She has titled her work ‘Mader,’ which is a combination of the two Arabic words for ‘past’ and ‘present.’

While the execution took three to four hours a day for four weeks, it was worth it for the emerging artist to represent the country’s growth and express his patriotism.

Saudi Scenes is an artwork and souvenir shop, offering a wide range of creations that are perfect for a special gift from home. From artwork collections to handmade pottery and jewelry, the shop proudly showcases its heritage.

“National Day is an event cherished by every Saudi citizen and resident,” he said, reminiscing on how far the Kingdom has come over the years.

Artist Muneerah Al-Ogla’s work, meanwhile, is an homage to the Saudi woman. Bursting with shades of blue and green and featuring a young girl set against spiral shapes, with doves and palm trees looming above, the painting “symbolizes the things going on in a Saudi woman’s life,” said Al-Ogla.

“Regardless of what is happening in her life, she’s able to hold her head up and move past the struggles and set goals for herself,” the artist told Arab News.  

In the two-piece oil painting, the dove symbolizes inner peace, Al-Ogla explained, signifying the subject’s ability to balance the difficulties of her past and reimagine a life for herself within the borders of the Kingdom.

Saudi Scenes is an artwork and souvenir shop, offering a wide range of creations that are perfect for a special gift from home. From artwork collections to handmade pottery and jewelry, the shop proudly showcases its heritage.

“This is our time as creatives in Saudi because the whole community now understands the importance of art. Now is the time for us to really deliver our creativity, as it takes on a role in reflecting the Kingdom’s image abroad, not just locally,” Al-Ogla said.
 
Catching the eye of visitors and fellow artists alike is Hams Muryh’s work, which aspires to document traditional Southern crafts. She incorporates Al-Haseer, a traditional hand-weaving technique using date palm leaves, and Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a style of Saudi art that is usually painted by women in the southern region of the Kingdom.

“They are symbols of our southern authenticity. This is the culture we inherited,” Muryh told Arab News, explaining how she combined and tried to balance the different techniques to modern effect.
 
“Saudi Crafts” also brought together a number of local collective craft studios and designers, such as Desert Designs, Herfa Association, Sadu Tarha, Wuhah Studio and others.

Keramos Studio is a Saudi brand established by Morouj Al-Shatri that aims to revive the ancient craft of pottery-making in the region, inspired by elements of Islamic art, Saudi folklore and local heritage.

While both the brand name and clay are imported from European countries, Greece and Italy respectively, all the products are designed and made by Saudis using traditional Saudi styles such as Sadu, Al-Qatt, and Hijazi Rawashin.

Along with its products, the company also offers workshops in which it teaches the techniques behind its crafts all year round.

Saudi Scenes is an artwork and souvenir shop, offering a wide range of creations that are perfect for a special gift from home. From artwork collections to handmade pottery and jewelry, the shop proudly showcases its heritage.

In this particular exhibition, its articles of choice were hand-painted local and traditional imagery on Daf, a Middle Eastern frame drum made from authentic leather. The featured scenes are interpretations of traditional Saudi desert settings, such as tent celebrations, horse riding and the historic Diriyah wall.

“I transformed the Daf from a musical instrument into an art piece, adding an element of light from the back to showcase the details more beautifully on the canvas. In the daylight, it’s the original painting, and dim light during the night may give off different aesthetics,” featured artist Duaa Al-Badr said about the work.